Friday, May 14, 2004


The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has lost the Indian general election, and there will certainly be a change of government. Few people expected this, because the general perception (certainly shared by me) has been that India has been booming recently. (Hey, they have even been winning at cricket). The new government looks to be dominated by the formerly long-ruling Congress party, although they will have to have the support of the Communist dominated "Left front" alliance to form a government. (In this day and age, people who used to be communists can end up being a lot of things, I guess). Sonia Gandhi, the Italian born widow of the late Rajiv Gandhi, looks to have a strong chance of becoming the next Prime Minister. As to whether this result means that the new government will reverse the generally free market orientation of the previous government, I have no idea. (I rather doubt it though). Elections are often won and lost for domestic reasons that are not especially apparent to people looking at the country from outside.

And of course, governments do not always end up being what they appear when they are first elected. When it came to power, the BJP appeared (at least to me) to be a rather fearsome party of Hindu nationalism, but the party became much more moderate once it was in power. I suspect this is almost inevitable in as large a country as India, particularly when there are so many competing political forces.

And writing this article, I cannot help but continue to realise just how ignorant I am about everyday Indian politics. India is becoming a very important country, and I rather like those aspects of it that I do know something about, but it is not a place with everyday goings on that are widely reported in the west.

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